Rosie Marshall, head of Toys & Childrens’ Gifts at Play-room, takes Toy World behind the scenes as its members prepare to open their doors to customers.
With UK retailers now mere weeks away from reopening their doors, Play-room is doing everything it can to ensure its members are ready and able to make to the most of customers returning to stores.
Throughout the pandemic, the group has been issuing a weekly newsletter containing details of the latest promotions, ‘show’ offers (even though the shows are off), and reopening deals that will help members fill their shelves – and maximise on sales. Rosie and Aimee Hill, Play-room toy selector, have also been attending virtual previews over recent weeks, and using the group’s weekly newsletter to communicate their expert opinions on the toy highlights they feel will best suit members.
Starting next week, Play-room is hosting a series of industry webinars for its members across two days, on relevant retail topics from using social media to controlling profits and margins, and tips on post-lockdown trading.
The annual bespoke range planner, called Opening the Play-room Door, is nearing completion. Currently in the hands of more than 20 leading toy suppliers, the finished planner will be going out to members in April, bursting with information on the newest ranges available. The planner will also encourage members to ‘have a dabble’, as Rosie puts it, with exciting new lines or suppliers they haven’t worked with before. “Indies can react so quickly to the emergence of new product, so our planner will give them fresh opportunities in this area and hopefully lead to some opportunities they perhaps haven’t considered yet,” she adds.
The import programme continues, despite the ongoing challenges, and an autumn/winter import show is on the calendar. As was recently reported, the Independent Toy & Gift Show, which Play-room organises, has been postponed till 14th-15th September due to ongoing lockdown restrictions, but demand for a return to physical shows is high and Rosie anticipates a hugely successful show (assuming the road out of lockdown is as straight as we all hope it will be).
“There’s definitely an appetite from suppliers and retailers alike to get out there and see people face to face again,” she enthuses. “Virtual previews have filled the gap, but nothing replaces physical shows, and being able to touch those products. I feel confident that by the end of summer, suppliers’ confidence in placing money behind stock will be really high; staycations will boost the UK economy and a lot of disposable income will be spent on toys this year, so the September timing works really well from a trade perspective.”
Rosie is also confident that 2021 will be another excellent year for the toy industry, with things ‘heading in the right direction’ following a long and hard winter. “The sun has been shining, and there are much better months ahead for our members and the industry in general,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to the rest of the year, and I know our members are too, starting with welcoming customers back through the doors of their shops. We can’t wait.”